After 14 seasons of Escape to the Country, Nicki Chapman has got a spin off series in which she will get to show prospective buyers around properties in Europe. With help from presenters Anita Rani and Alistair Appleton, Escape to the Continent will whisk us away to France, Croatia, Italy, Germany, Austria, Spain and more, where we can salivate over acres of land, good weather and beautiful towns.
We catch up with Chapman ahead of the show for more on the new series and some valuable advice on buying abroad…
Are there lots of bargains to be found in Europe?
Oddly enough, in Croatia on the Dalmatian coast where [a couple on the show] wanted to move to, it’s really expensive. They had a budget of £450,000, which is a big budget. There are a lot of Northern Europeans living in Croatia. It’s stunning. The weather is fabulous nine months out of the year. But for £450,000 pounds, you’re not buying a huge property. You’re buying a lovely but modest two-to-three bedroom house. That’s quite a large budget. Whereas you can go to Brittany and with £250,000 you can get land, out buildings, so it varies. You can buy a property on the coast of Portugal for £150,000 with beachside views.
Why is a lot of property in Europe more affordable?
I think it’s just that there’s so much property. In France you can buy a lovely detached house for £150,000 pounds because there is so much land and so much property. Remember the UK is such a congested country. We do have a lot of countryside, but we do have 60 million people. There’s a premium on land. If you want two acres, you either move to remote parts of the UK or you dig deep. A lady [on the show] had a healthy budget of £750,000. Now, £750,000 pounds isn’t going to buy you much in Oxfordshire. But in Italy, you can buy a palace with 20 acres.There’s more choice.
What was your favourite area, and were you tempted to sell up and buy abroad after doing this show?
I’d love to. If I was going to move, it would be to Sydney, Australia, because I think Sydney has the best of everything. It’s got beaches. It’s got countryside. It’s a great city. In Europe, I loved Marche in Italy. I’d never been there before. That was an eye opener. Our lady [on the show] came with a healthy budget. If you have £400,000, you could buy the most beautiful property around there, near beautiful vineyards and unspoiled medieval villages. And France is always also a crowd pleaser, and I can see why. Great food, great attitude, there’s history there. Wonderful buildings.
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Which European country is the best value for money in terms of property?
I would say Centro in Portugal. You’re really not that far from Lisbon either, so you can fly back to the UK if you want to. For the value of money, I was surprised at what you could get in Centro in Portugal. And also Brittany, that was a big surprise for me to see how reasonable it can be. But then again, you don’t have guaranteed sun.
What are your top three tips for buying abroad?
One, get proper legal advice. You can lose your heart with a place and put down a deposit, but do overseas what you would do in the UK. You would never buy a house without a solicitor. You must do the same over there. I would definitely go with a local solicitor. Two, do your homework about the region. Find out what the temperature is in the summer as well as the winter. Does it flood? Are you going to get snow? How easily can you get home should you need to? Do as much homework as you can and then do more. Three, ask yourself to be realistic. We all fall in love with places on holiday, but this isn’t a holiday romance. This could be the rest of your life. Can you live here? Are you going to learn the language? If you’re not going to bother to learn the language, what would the repercussions be? Are you prepared to make friends? You really have to do the work if you’re going to become part of the community. That is so important being part of the community. This isn’t just buying a house in the sun. This is about the rest of your life. The good times, and the bad times.
Watch Escape to the Continent at 6.30pm, April 7, on BBC2